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|14 February, 2019

Step Conference to launch in Saudi next month: co-founder

Step is the leading gathering of tech-startups and investors in Dubai

A view shows buildings and the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 1, 2017.

A view shows buildings and the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 1, 2017.

REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Dubai’s leading tech event, Step Conference, will launch in Saudi Arabia next month, one of the event’s co-founders has said.

“This is the first time that we launch in Saudi, it is going to be in Riyadh on March 25… the venue is called Seven Moons. It will be one day only,” Nizar Fakih, co-founder of the Step Conference, said in a joint interview with Zawya and Accelerate SME on Thursday, following an earlier announcement at the conference.

The kingdom is the Arab world’s biggest economy and the second-most populous nation after Egypt. Its venture capital (VC) sector is also growing. According to a report by Magnitt, a UAE-based startup that tracks VC investments, the share of venture-backed deals in the kingdom in 2018 increased by 1 percent last year, to 7 percent of the total investments made in 17 Arab states surveyed by Magnitt. 

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Asked about the main reason behind Step Conference’s decision to launch in Saudi, Fakih said: “Because we believe that the time is right in Saudi... because there is a lot of focus from the government on Vision 2030, digital transformation and we have been in contact with a lot of partners there over the past year.”

He added: “With the partners from government and corporate in Saudi, we felt it was the right moment to really launch Step… the ecosystem is picking up,” he added.

Fakih said that he aims to attract 1,500 attendees to the Saudi event.

The Dubai Step Conference, which has been taking place in Wednesday and Thursday at Dubai Internet City, attracts between 5,000-6,000 attendees. 

“And hopefully next year we will do something much bigger,” Fakih said, adding that the Saudi event will have around 100 mostly local startups, which is about half of the number of startups that participate in Dubai’s event.

According to its website, the Step Conference started as a series of events seven years ago.

He said Step’s event in Saudi will include partners, but did not wish to name them.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Reem Wafai, Editing by Michael Fahy)

(yasmine.saleh@refinitiv.com)

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© ZAWYA 2019

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